Tag Archives: pianists

Madge Gillings and Mrs Bagot Stack on record

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The Women’s League of Health and Beauty Exercises—music from the early 1930s, and a beautiful documentary, all online. Continue reading

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Ballet pianists and sacred cows: a correction

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What a difference a sub-clause makes In a recent article on the work of ballet pianists I was quoted as saying that live music for ballet training is a lot about tradition—the pianist is almost like “the sacred cow” (in … Continue reading

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Playing for ballet class tip #2: It’s all about the left hand, not the right

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Nine times out of ten, the secret of being a good dance pianist is to concentrate on what your left hand is doing rather than your right. As pianists, we tend to obsess over the right hand because that’s where the difficult fingering, the splashy runs, the big melodies are. And while you’re doing that, you start to do terrible things with the left because you think no-one will notice or care.

But in dance music, the most important thing is to set up a vital, secure, infectious rhythm that implies movement. Continue reading

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Playing for ballet class tips #1: Listen to yourself and the room

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If you play for class a lot, it’s easy to get into a habit of being so focused on what the dancers are doing, and what the teacher wants, that you stop listening to the sound you’re making. Playing becomes a kind of mindless typing, except you don’t know what you’ve written. Your hands fall on the piano keys, letting gravity decide what kind of a sound comes out. Notes fall out of your fingers like water from a leaking ship.

There’s only one way to stop this, and that’s to listen. Continue reading

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Advent calendar 2012: playing for ballet classes

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It’s that time of year again when I try to blog for 25 days in a row for Advent, on something to do with dance and music.  This year it’s going to be tips for playing for ballet classes. I … Continue reading

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